Velankanni officially spelled as Vailankanni (Canal of white, the river), lies on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal, 350 km south of Chennai.
The town is home to a significant Roman Catholic Latin Rite shrine dedicated to God in the name of Our Lady of Good Health, Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health.
Velankanni is home to one of the country's biggest Catholic pilgrimage centres. The Catholic Basilica devoted to Our Lady of Good Health is popularly known as the "Lourdes of the East". The origins of this church can be traced back to the 16th century and its founding is attributed to three miracles: the apparition of Mary and Jesus to a slumbering shepherd boy, the curing of a lame buttermilk vendor, and the survival of Portuguese sailors assaulted by a violent sea storm.
It is built in the Gothic style, was modified by Portuguese and then further expanded later on due to the influx of pilgrims. The church building was raised to the status of basilica in 1962 by Pope John XXIII.
Annually, 20 million pilgrims flock to the shrine from all over India and abroad, out which an estimated 3 million people visit the shrine during its annual festival from 29 August to 8 September. The 11-day annual festival concludes with the celebration of the Feast of the Nativity of Mary on 8 September.
The Basilica is built in the Gothic style of architecture. The southern side was extended in 1928 and the northern in 1933. The Shrine Basilica contains three chapels, as well as Our Lady's Tank, Church Museum, Priests' Residence, Offering Center, Stations of the Cross, Stations of the Rosary, Shrine Mega Mahal and Vailankanni Beach. The building is painted in white, except for the roof that is made of tiles of striking red color.
A spacious vestry was provided immediately behind the altar. Thus the entire sacred edifice began to assume the shape of a Latin Cross. Right over the center of the ancient main altar was the miraculous image of Our Lady of Good Health. Velankanni is a coastal area. Therefore it is very hot during summer.